equality, racism

Racism (28): Shooter Bias

armed black suspect

(source unknown)

When called to the scene of an on-going crime, police officers often have to make split-second decisions whether to shoot or not. There’s chaos, darkness, running, shouting, shooting perhaps, and no time to determine who’s who and who’s likely to do what. Training can help, but in most cases officers just rely on instincts. In other words, these are the ideal situations for the revelation of personal biases.

Because of the nature of those situations, officers sometimes make mistakes and shoot innocent persons or unarmed suspects. Now, somewhat unsurprisingly there’s research telling us that it’s more likely for white people to shoot unarmed black suspects than unarmed white suspects. This bias is called the shooter bias, and it’s not the monopoly of police officers (as lab tests with ordinary citizens have confirmed). (More here).

It seems that a lot of people have internalized the stereotype about dangerous black men, even those who would not think of themselves as having done so.

More posts in this series are here.

equality, gender discrimination

Gender Discrimination (32): Gender Stereotyping of Robots

female robot


Our prejudices must be very deeply ingrained if we even stereotype robots. From an interesting new paper:

Previous research on gender effects in robots has largely ignored the role of facial cues. We fill this gap in the literature by experimentally investigating the effects of facial gender cues on stereotypical trait and application ascriptions to robots. As predicted, the short-haired male robot was perceived as more agentic than was the long-haired female robot, whereas the female robot was perceived as more communal than was the male counterpart. Analogously, stereotypically male tasks were perceived more suitable for the male robot, relative to the female robot, and vice versa. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that gender stereotypes, which typically bias social perceptions of humans, are even applied to robots. (source, source)

If we can’t manage to treat inanimate robots without sexism and prejudice, then what hope is there for our fellow human beings of the other gender?

Interestingly, the complaint seems to go both ways. Robots, in the general sense of the word, have been known to exhibit sexism. Siri and Google for example are said to favor “male terms” and solutions when autocorrecting of suggesting phrases. Some examples:

sexist google

siri sexist

Obviously, prejudice in robots and in software, to the extent that it exists, only reflects the prejudice of their makers.

More posts in this series are here.

citizenship, data, globalization, human rights maps, international relations, law, poverty, work

Human Rights Maps (144): The “Criminal Immigrant” Stereotype

I’ve argued many times before that the link between immigration and crime is a particularly nasty piece of political cynicism and populism, completely fact-free but unfortunately not devoid of harmful consequences. Three different groups suffer these consequences:

  • potential migrants who have beneficial opportunities taken away from them
  • existing migrants who are unfairly targeted by law enforcement
  • and the native populations who also can’t benefit from increased immigration.

Here’s one sickening cartoon in map form, claiming that Mexico, following the example of Colombia, is drowning in blood, and that the blood is spilling across the border, when in fact immigration reduces crime rates:

cartoon criminal immigrant stereotype map mexico US


More maps on migration are here. More human rights maps in general are here.

citizenship, data, economics, globalization, international relations, poverty, work

Migration and Human Rights (37): Hostility Towards Immigrants Caused by the Economic Recession

restricting immigration

restricting immigration


I’ve written a few times before about the possible effects of the current economic recession – or of any recession for that matter – on human rights. Now its seems that there’s some proof for the common notion that recessions promote anti-immigrant feelings:

Macroeconomic conditions have long been suspected of increasing hostility toward ethnic outgroups. Integrating prior work on macroeconomic threat with recent threat-based models of prejudice, the current work employs an experimental approach to examine the implications of economic threat for prejudice toward ethnic outgroups. In Study 1, participants primed with an economic threat (relative to a non-economic threat and neutral topic) reported more prejudice against Asian Americans, an ethnic group whose stereotype implies a threat to scarce employment opportunities. In addition, economic threat led to a heightened state of anxiety, which mediated the influence of economic threat on prejudice against Asian Americans. Study 2 replicated and extended these findings by demonstrating that economic threat heightened prejudice against Asian Americans, but not Black Americans, an ethnic group whose stereotype does not imply a threat to economic resources. These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for understanding the role of macroeconomic conditions in potentiating antisocial responses to particular outgroups. (source)

Anti-immigrant hostility as such isn’t a human rights violation, but it can lead to discrimination and even violence. In most cases, it will just make restrictions on immigration more likely, and we know that migration is an important route out of poverty for many. Hence, immigration restrictions exacerbate poverty, and that’s a human rights violation. Not to mention the right to free movement and residence.

Some data on hostility are here.